If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?
My favorite panel is one with plenty of good laughs and candor about society’s challenges and hypocrisies. So let’s say Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift and Dorothy Parker. I would laugh, listen and learn. And wouldn’t it be great if Stephen Colbert could be the moderator?
Which of your characters (or character types) is the hardest for you to write?
Perhaps Zahira in my most recent book, Allure of Deceit – an intelligent, beautiful woman who grew up in Afghanistan. An aspiring physician, she attended medical school in Moscow, returning home to care for her ailing father. Trapped by war, Islamic rules on inheritance, and an arranged and loveless marriage, she cannot finish her education. She along with an eccentric husband live in a remote compound. Nearby villagers do not trust Zahira or her foreign education. She is ostracized, and rumors swirl that she an abortionist. In her village, lies are a form of self-defense, and Zahira is a participant in one that haunts her for the rest of her life. From the start, this strong-willed character had a mind of her own and refused to cooperate with my original plot. The story is better because of her.
What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?
Publicity. A book should speak for itself, but authors must convince busy readers to give their story a chance. It’s hard to “blow one’s horn” and convince anyone that any one book should stand out among the numbers being published each year. Readers and writers are fortunate when they discover one another and a special connection.
What’s the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?
It’s moving when strangers express appreciation for a story and suggest it’s useful for understanding others and living their lives. Most memorable – a young mother who said she felt relief after reading Fear of Beauty and realized she did not have to stay in an abusive relationship; a young teen who read Interruptions and expressed amazement about how often teachers might label children and how he could resist those labels; and the many who have read Allure of Deceit and could find more similarities than differences with those in a remote Afghan village. One review of Allure of Deceit that gave me chills was written by Si Dunn: “In this well-written, intelligent, engrossing thriller, the road to hell definitely is paved with good intentions. Some Americans with ‘do good’ desires blunder into a culture they do not understand – rural Afghanistan – and create one hell of a mess as they attempt to offer ‘help’ that most of the Afghans do not want, need, or, in many cases, even comprehend.”
What do you wish people knew about the writing business?
The business requires lots of hats. A willingness to sit alone and plan characters and their stories, then put the words to paper; the flexibility to read drafts multiple times and consider revising every aspect of a story; working with a team of editors and proofreaders and deciding which advice we might pursue; and finally, sitting back and learning from the editors, cover artists, reviewers and readers who develop their own interpretations of our stories.
Susan Froetschel is the author of five suspense novels, most recently Fear of Beauty and Allure of Deceit, set in rural Afghanistan. Her books are about parents and children who risk their reputations and lives by questioning policies and beliefs in their communities that others take for granted. Fear of Beauty was a finalist for the 2014 Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America. The book also won the top mystery/suspense award from the Military Writers Society of America and the youth literature award from the Middle East Outreach Council. She is managing editor for YaleGlobal Online and lives in Michigan.